Sunday 9/1: Sue rides
Monday 9/2- Tuesday 9/3: Bad horse mom alert. Between dogsitting x2, catsitting x1, Grace in town, and work at Barn Z I didn’t manage to make it out either day. Blah.
Wednesday 9/4: Sue lessoned and it was “the best lesson ever!” Sooooo cute. Glad to hear someone gush over Miss Pearl as much as I do. Heart cockles, consider yourselves warmed.
Thursday 9/5: Finally hit the trails (skipped Rosh Hashanah services…Bad Jew Alert!) and it was…interesting. I’ve tried to scope them out on Google Maps satellite but you can’t see any actual trails, so it looked to be more grassy type trails/fields, and I could tell it was bounded on all sides by roads. So I turned on my little GPS tracker smartphone app because I am a technology-using millennial and off we went, hopefully in the right direction.
So yup, mostly paths mown in fields. It was so good to get out of the sandbox. Pearl was pretty good considering she hasn’t been ridden outside an arena since March. She’s not the bravest and you can tell trails aren’t really her “thing” but she’ll tolerate them and she does get better with practice– I used to trail ride her solo all the time when we were in Ohio and she did get to the point where it seemed like she enjoyed it, marching along and hopping little logs and galloping in fields. I’ll try and get out there at least every other week, even if only as a cooldown after an arena workout.
My theory of trail riding when not in a forest preserve tends to be along the lines of “as long as we’re not falling in any holes and no one is yelling at us we’re probably fine,” so while I tried to keep us on the paths I didn’t stress too much when we couldn’t find one– we’ll pick up another one. And yes, there are lots of holes to fall into… I think some sort of tree farm, so there were some nice big holes where trees got dug up and sent off to new homes.
Per my Google stalking, I also knew there was a pond somewhere pretty close to the barn. We found it pretty easily because duh, it’s a pond in a field right by the barn.
Despite having spent a year at Barn J, where the arena literally did not dry up the entire time we were there, Pearl is not a water fan. The one and only time I ever picked a fight with her was when we were at school, and there was a puddle across part of the trail. Because of said water aversion I generally try to make her go through water whenever I can, so I steered her towards the puddle– except it was only covering about half the width of the trail, and so she could maneuver her body so that she was going in the direction I was pointing her, but without getting her feet wet. For whatever reason I decided she needed to walk through this puddle…so we spent at least 20 minutes duking it out. I tried everything, including breaking a makeshift crop off a tree, getting off and leading her, trying to individually pick up one of her feet and place it in the puddle…but since it was about the size of her belly, she could just step around it no matter what I did. I finally realized I was being ridiculous and nitpicky and got back on, having learned my lesson: never ever pick a fight with a Trakehner mare.
So, pond. Figured I would walk around it and at least scope it out and maybe see some frogs or something. She gave it the stinkeye the whole time. She also did have a moment near one of the power line towers… gave a decent-sized spook the first time we passed it, then when I circled her back around spooked again in the same spot. She’s not usually one to pick something to spook at, but come to think of it she has had a similar reaction to a power box on another trail, so maybe it was making a noise/tingle outside my range of senses?
She was awesome about crossing the little bridge, though. A lot of times she’ll be fussy about changes in footing but while she gave it The Look, she went over it without hesitation, so lots of good-girl points.
We wandered around for a good while. There were a couple times we probably ended up in someone’s backyard but we didn’t end up in any trouble.
When we seemed to have hit the point where we’d either be on what was obviously someone’s property or the road, we headed back. Very proud of her because she didn’t do any kind of “whee we’re turning around to go home let’s go faster” stuff. There were a couple of short flat/clear stretches so we had a couple little trots and one short canter. Then we got back near the barn and ran into our friend again, the pond.
You know how sometimes you really want to do something, but you know it’s a bad idea, but you do it anyways all the while thinking about what a bad idea it is, and you have no idea why you’re doing it? Yeah, pond. Since we’d had such a good ride, I was…not cocky necessarily, but a little over-confident, and after all we’ve been through this year I wanted us to conquer a body of water, dammit. I walked us around the pond and thought to myself “Hmm, looks shallow enough, but you never know because it could be deeper than it looks in some parts. Don’t go in it.” Add that to the fact that I have no idea whose pond it is; it could be somebody’s septic field for all I know. Don’t go in the pond.
I decided a good compromise would be to find a nice shallow spot, take one step in, then turn right back out and let her eat some of the nice fat clover that was growing nearby. Circled around and found a flat place that looked like a good entry place, pointed her at it. She balked, obviously. That settled it…no turning back now. We have to step in the pond. Kept her pointed at it, some more fussing, and like the good girl she is, she stepped in. I took half a breath and was just about the praise the everloving crap out of her, because the last time I tried to get her in a stream she wouldn’t have any of it, when everything went haywire. She took a few steps forward, I had one second of “Wait, this feels weird…are we swimming?” then a split second of feeling the water soak all the way up my breeches, then I saw Pearl’s shoulder coming up at me, then I was lying in the pond totally soaked trying to keep a hold of the reins, which by the way are really slippery when covered in pond water. Shiiiiiiit. Let go lest I rip her face off or be dragged. Staggered out of the pond, noting the slippery bottom– I don’t think it was actually that super deep because I didn’t have to swim, but she must’ve sunk into the mud or slipped or something?
Nothing quite like the sight of your horse merrily trotting away from you. Normally when I fall off (yes, I’ve fallen off Pearl enough times that there’s a ‘normally’) she’ll just stand there looking at me like wait what are you doing there? but the excitement of the pond was clearly a bit much and not even the grass was tempting enough to stop her. Luckily, we were close enough to the barn that she just ran the fenceline a couple times riling up all
her boyfriends the other horses nearest the fence and then I caught her as she passed by. I was laughing hysterically, because honestly, how stupid can you get? Noted that our entire saddle was wet (good thing it was mine and not Sue’s!), including phone and camera which were clipped to the breastplate. Camera survived, phone was doing angry phone things…so there went our GPS plan. Led her back to the pond, with zero intentions of setting foot in the water this time. Walked her up to the edge just before where we entered. Lots of praise.
Headed back to the barn, got on her to walk up the driveway because blah blah get back on the horse. Untacked and hosed the pond water off her. Let her grab a couple mouthfuls of grass before putting her back and didn’t even groan when she went straight to roll because she totally deserved it.
Cue waterworks. I don’t think I have ever felt this singularly awful after a ride. I’ve had plenty of bad lessons, and there’s nothing quite like that sinking feeling when you watch your horse trot off lame, but this was a whole new low. My horse didn’t want to do something I was asking her to do, and rightly so, but she did it anyways, because she trusts me. I knew what I was doing was wrong, and in the end I let her down big time. Just like I let down K&J. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I don’t even deserve a horse.
Friday 9/6: Sue rode Pearl. I went up to WI to see M’s new place. I met M at Barn W (literally the only good thing that came of boarding there), and she took Carson’s horse when C came to Chicago for school. The new place is awesome and she was super excited to show it to me. She has access to some 30 miles of trails from her backyard….with XC jumps planted along the way. Grass pastures, indoor, outdoor, 9 stall barn. Pretty much exactly what I want someday, if I make it that far.
I got to ride her mare Stella. She’s a lovely bay TB mare who loves to work…so, right up my alley. We started off in the outdoor just so I could get a feel for her. She is a sensitive type, but I could tell even never having ridden her before that she was a million times more happy and relaxed than she was at Barn W. I got a “quiet seat” compliment from M which made my day…I am always pleasantly surprised when anyone considers my riding anything more than mediocre. She’s super fun and responsive, loves to canter but isn’t a freight train. M said I can come up and ride her whenever, so I want to try and ride her another time. We hit the trails and they were seriously everything I was hoping they’d be.
Well groomed but not manicured to the point it feels like you’re in a subdivision, went through the forest and fields, wound around a bunch of horse properties, all the while with little just-my-size jumps. We only walked because M’s other horse Toby isn’t super great on the trails yet, but it was lovely. I also got to see Addie, who has settled right into her new home. Going to take C up to see her in the very near future hopefully.
Saturday 9/7: Sue rides Pearl